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Australian technology approved as cervical cancer vaccine

22 June, 2006

It is the world's first cervical cancer vaccine and has been approved in the United States. In addition, it could be on the shelves in Australia by the end of the year.

It will be a lifesaver for many women as cervical cancer kills about 270,000 women worldwide each year. Technology developed by Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer and his team from The University of Queensland helped create the preventative vaccine.

America's Food and Drug Administration has licensed the vaccine, Gardasil, for use by girls and women ages nine to 26. The vaccine protects against four of the dozens of strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts as well as cervical cancer.

US drugmaker Merck & Co. expects to start selling a three-shot series of Gardasil by the end of the month for about $485. Merck is seeking similar approval around the world including Australia, and approval in Australia is expected by next month.

"It is extremely exciting after 15 years to see the product finally reach the point where it will come to market," Professor Frazer said. "More gratifying still is the fact that women across the world will benefit significantly from this vaccine."

HPV causes abnormal cells or tissue growth on the feet, hands, vocal cords, mouth and genitals. About 60 types of HPV have been identified so far with each strand infecting certain parts of the body.

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